Yesterday Law.com published an article entitled Tough Year for Class Action Attorneys Continues, authored by Lynne Marek. What I want to know is, how does Lynne Marek know what kind of year I'm having? The article is ostensibly about three Lexington, Kentucky attorneys, William J. Gallion, Shirley A. Cunningham Jr., and Melbourne Mills Jr., that are facing charges for allegedly stealing $46 million in settlement funds obtained for their clients in Fen-Phen diet drug litigation.
I say "ostensibly" because this column strikes me as a gratuitous shot at all attorneys that litigate class actions. For example, the column digresses from the factual discussion about the Kentucky attorneys to offer this:
“With criminal prosecutions of class action attorneys who have made millions of dollars off their cases unfolding through indictments from New York to Mississippi to Kentucky, government officials are starting to call for more scrutiny of such litigation.
(Lynne Marek, Tough Year for Class Action Attorneys Continues (May 21, 2008) www.law.com.) "From New York to Mississippi to Kentucky..." From the sound of it, we have a pandemic of class action practitioners under indictment by prosecutors. In reality, the only other examples of such prosecutions include Mississippi lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs and Melvyn Weiss and William Lerach, securities class action lawyers at the New York firm formerly known as Milberg Weiss.
Nevermind the facts; this crisis gives the author a chance to work in a quote from American Tort Reform Association President Sherman Joyce: "Maybe these are isolated incidents, but we have no way of knowing that right now." Actually, Sherman, you do know the answer. Most lawyers in most states are conducting their business in lawful manner, without stealing any client funds or paying clients or bribing judges. Some are rotten apples, and the various state bars catch a fair number of those, even if it takes a while. The chickens eventually came home to roost for Mr. Lerach.
But Lynne Marek's article isn't about evenhanded journalism. It's about pushing an angle, an agenda. As a modest proposal, I suggest honesty for future columns. Instead of a whole page full of life-stealing prose, just say, "I hate class action and class action lawyers and I hope the government regulates them out of existence." Look at how much time I just saved everyone. Now we'll all have about 5 minutes of our lives back when the next column comes out.